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With: Rotimi Rainwater, Jewel, Rosario Dawson, Miley Cyrus, Jon Bon Jovi, Halle Berry, Tiffany Haddish, Sanaa Lathan, Rebecca Gayheart, Patrick Leahy
Written by: Rotimi Rainwater
Directed by: Rotimi Rainwater
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 95
Date: 06/12/2020

Lost in America (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Close to Home

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

No one wants to think about homelessness, and it's exactly this approach Rotimi Rainwater takes in his compassionate, fearless documentary, finding ways to humanize the issue, and to give it urgency.

In Lost in America, Rotimi Rainwater, a former homeless youth-turned-filmmaker decides to travel across the country to explore the issue of youth homelessness, and to discover why it receives so little attention. He meets U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, who tries to get a bill through Congress that will help homeless youth. He also talks to several homeless youths, between the ages of 17 and 21.

He learns that many identify as LGBTQ and were kicked out of their homes, and that the failing Foster Care system in America also sends kids out onto the streets. He also learns that sex trafficking and drug use are commonplace among homeless youths. In the end, Rainwater achieves one small step, which is to establish an accurate number of homeless youths in America, but the fight is just beginning.

Lost in America benefits greatly from Rainwater at the helm and on-camera, using not only his real-life experience, but also his intrepid persistence to find the facts, and the emotions, he's looking for. He seems to really care, and yet he avoids self-congratulations. It's telling that this documentary originated when he arranged to screen his previous movie, Sugar, a feature also about homelessness, for Congress — and no one showed up.

Rainwater assembles an impressive list of interviewees. In addition to Senator Leahy, recording artists Jewel, Miley Cyrus, and Jon Bon Jovi, and actors Rosario Dawson, Halle Berry, Tiffany Haddish, Sanaa Lathan, and Rebecca Gayheart, all of whom have either struggled with homelessness themselves, or are involved in trying to help. He also interviews many actual homeless youths, like Conner and Makayla in San Francisco, who share a tragic story and its cruel aftermath, and Calub in Denver, who was thrown out of the house for identifying as trans.

In addition to facing head-on the weightier problems surrounding homelessness, Lost in America also leaves us with a simple message. If you see a homeless person, say hello. It will mean more than you can imagine.

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